What do You Mean, “Rejoice”?

As a family, we are memorizing I Peter 4:12,  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” It goes on to say, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” I am not good at that rejoicing-in-hard-stuff bit.

Just about a year ago, Gabe and I took a weekend off to celebrate our tenth anniversary (3 months after the fact) at a friend’s cabin. We had a nursling to take along, and my husband was so sick he could hardly carry our luggage or the fat baby. It was raw and damp outside, brown dirt and chopped off cornstalks lining the driveway, a steep slope up the ridge begging to be hiked. I had packed the most tempting foods I could think of for my man, and I grilled and cooked with care. He wasn’t hungry, picked at a few bites, and left the rest for me. We built a fire, played a game of Canasta, then he was tired. I put the baby down for a nap and tramped outside, my heart heavy with forebodings, my spirit rebelling against these circumstances. This was supposed to be our tenth anniversary celebration, after all!

I was mad. Why weren’t our prayers answered? A whole year of nursing school yet… how could it possibly be better that my husband be sick? I clawed my way up that steep ridge, tears stinging my eyes, self pity washing over me. What are we going to do if he never gets better? What if we will never be able to make plans again without adding, “If Gabe feels well enough”? How would we support our family if he can’t work?

The angry questions kept swarming, all the way to the top of the ridge where the turkey trails came out of the woods into the corn field. I stood there, my hands clenched, my heart screaming for answers. I felt the bitter core swelling inside me. “WHY, WHY, WHY?”

Did you know that God’s children can be incredibly rude and demanding sometimes, desperate, afraid, and He doesn’t ever turn His back on them? As I was standing there, miserably waiting for some reassurance that everything was going to get better, I sensed that fact. No matter what (insert worst case scenario), He is there. Slowly my hands unclenched. I still didn’t understand, but I gave up trying and I believed. Slowly my heart softened in worship. I gave up the control I didn’t have anyway. I threw down my worries with my drenched tissues in that forsaken turkey grazing field. They were biodegradable anyway.

Maybe that is what it means, “Rejoice.” Maybe it doesn’t mean, “Feel good.” Maybe it means, “Be glad that you don’t have to be big enough to handle this all by yourself.”

Two Parables

Just for anyhow, to check their acuity, I spoke a few parables to my children this morning.

Once there was this lady who was absolutely surrounded with paper and snibbles and more papers. They piled up and up around her, until finally she was drowning in paper snibbles. All you could see was her hand, frantically waving for help, but when you dug down a bit, there she was, not quite smothered.

I spoke the parable rather dramatically, then at sight of Olivia’s scared little face, I ruined it and burst out laughing. That was when she spoke the Chortle of the Day and went to get the broom to help clean up the kitchen floor.

The other parable was for Rita.

Once there was a little girl who loved kittens. One day she dumped all her toys and treasures and blankets out on the floor. Then she went outside and caught her kitty. She put it into her toybox and played and played with it. After a while, she put it outside again, but now her room is a horrible wreck. She can’t even walk in it without hurting her feet. The little girl had better go clean it up before her mama goes in there with a garbage bag.

I should have known that the only predictable thing about three year olds is their unpredictability. She was totally unfazed. “That’s all right. We don’t like that stuff anyway!”

So there’s nothing wrong with their acuity. I decided that a good old, “Go, clean up your room,” nice and direct-like, was probably more effective. Just not as much fun.

The Nitty Grits

So we all breathe each other’s air, and we all get a little bored these days. Recently I have been convicted of  automatically saying, “No, just go read a book,” whenever the children want to do (messy) creative stuff. This is probably because of the Inertia of too Much to Do coupled with the Fear of Huge Messes. Reading books may be all right for a while, but it gets to be blasé in a long, confined, cold time. Nor can one always think up jobs for the bored child. It comes down to the nitty grits. My life for yours. My small hour of clean floor sacrificed for your fun. Not such a big deal, really, when one comes to think of it.

I decided to try saying, “Sure, let’s do that!” to as many requests as I reasonably can. I didn’t tell the kiddos, of course. 🙂 I am smarter than that!

Why, yes, I guess we can make carrot halva, Gregory. Isn’t it so interesting that they put that recipe in your Reading book? (Inner groans. It says to cook one hour, then fry twenty minutes, stirring constantly, so it doesn’t burn. Betcha I know who will be doing most of the stirring.)

Greg cooking halva

delectable halva

Sure, let’s cook up some play dough. You want to do all the food colorings? Okay. Just don’t mix the colors in the tubs.

Yes, I think a tea party would be a lot of fun. You set the table while I get the food ready. (And oh, the drama in the interim. Who invented tea parties, anyway?)

boys tea party

No, you may not have candy right now. I know you went potty, but we are having lunch soon.

Sure, give everybody a mandarin orange. That won’t spoil your appetite.

Let’s all go outside and explore (in the mud and cold)!  (Even if it means I will have to tote a 26 pound tot who can’t maneuver too well in boots.)

A play dough party with all the cookie cutters? (Crumbs, crumbs, crumbs. I just swept the floor.) Okay. You are going to have to help with cleanup, though.

dirt cleanup


No! Don’t eat that bread crust!!!

Well, just be sure to put all the paints and brushes away when the baby wakes up.

Oh, yes, Hide and Seek will be so much fun if we turn off all the lights. (Hey, stop following me! Go find your own hiding place!)

You want to make something fun? How about Peanut Blossoms? (Fractions. Lord, let him get these fractions!) Okay, you are gonna have to wait to lick your fingers until you are all done.

Yes, we can watch “Mission to Mir” as soon as the living room is cleaned up.

No, you may not sit beside each other and toss golf balls back and forth while I read your Bible story. …Just because…

Okay. One more story. But not that long one.

Well, I guess you can read for a little while in bed.

Yes, I do like you, children.

My Grandma Heroine

Today we had fellowship meal at church, which is what we call our potluck/carry in. Not only is there lots of great food, there is also lots of time to visit and connect with others. I love fellowship meal! Sharing tales of life over a leisurely dessert and coffee is hard to beat.

We were discussing empty nesters, and how people tend to go through a rough patch when the last of the children leave home. I have to admit, it is hard for me to even imagine a perpetually quiet house. 🙂 I won’t delve into the conversation, but just say that I suddenly remembered Grandma Moses and something I wrote about her in the Blog that Crumpled. Here it is, reposted:

And then, there is Grandma Moses, the most intriguing of all. I have to confess, the first time I saw a painting done by Grandma Moses, I was disappointed. This funny landscape with tilting houses and barns, with people who were little more than stick figures with tiny heads… this was famous art? Recently  I read her biography and I saw the quality in her that went far beyond her lack of perspective and vanishing points. She painted cheerfully, with great joy in the ordinary things that cram life so full we easily lose the wonder of them. 

As a child in the 1860’s, she loved to draw and color her pictures with berries and carpenter’s chalk. But at age twelve, childhood ended when she began working as a hired girl in a series of homes, going from place to place until she married the hired man at one of the farms where she was staying. She was almost 26. Life became much too busy to do anything just for personal satisfaction. Five of their ten babies died, and the seasons on the farm demanded all her time. At one time she improved their family’s finances quite a bit by making “the best butter in the Shenandoah Valley” to sell. Not only was she undisturbed by hard work, she actually seemed to like it!

When her husband died, their children took over the farm and Grandma Moses had extra time on her hands for the first time since childhood. She was nearly eighty when she scrounged together some odds and ends of paints and brushes and masonite boards and tried to convey her ideas in colorful sketches. She painted from memory all the scenes and happy times, all the landscapes that had lifted her heart with their beauty in the hard years. 

So what was her secret? She was a sort of peppery little Pollyanna who had absolutely no time to feel sorry for herself. And when she finally had time to express what was inside, out poured all the stored up beauty and kindness and gratefulness. Over two thousand paintings from age 80 to age 101, when she died. Her final work was titled “The Rainbow”.

I think the reason I like Grandma Moses so much is because of how cheerfully she accepted the seasons in life, embracing both the limitations and privileges as they came. I want to be like that when I get big!

Making Stuff

Some of you would be interested to know what is up with Gregory’s leg. The x ray didn’t show any breaks or torn ligaments, although the doctor estimated that he has a pint of fluid around his scrawny little knee. It looks and feels rather grotesque, but he is hobbling around a bit better. Thankfully, they were in and out of the E.D. very speedily the other evening.

It’s that time of the year. The walls are pushing in on me. The house is a perpetual riot of paper snibble projects and play dough and broken crayons underfoot and dolls on leashes, I kid you not. Our main living area is about 900 square feet, so it is not a whole lot of breathing room for 7 people. I get to feeling really crotchety, like I have to break out and do something different, something creative, before I start staring glassy eyed out the window, waiting for daffodils to appear.

With Gabe working this afternoon and night, I briefly entertained the idea of taking the crew to the library, then I quickly squelched it as not a good relaxing thing to do at all. Instead, I decided to make mozzarella cheese and have a tea party with the small people. In retrospect, I should have stuck to plan A. All the tutorials say it is so easy to make mozzarella, why in the world wouldn’t everybody do it? I was planning to use raw milk, but the empty milk jugs were in the car trunk, parked at the hospital. They say you can use pasteurized milk, only be prepared to knead it a bit more.

So. I had my vegetable rennet, my citric acid, and my gallon of store bought milk. I followed the instructions as carefully as 23 interruptions allowed me. Somehow, in the final stage, where I should have had a mass of fairly solid, stringy cheese, I had this cottage cheese looking stuff. It took a loooong time to fish it out of the whey with a slotted spoon, since the strainer holes plugged up in the first minute of straining.

Meanwhile, the big boy was icing cupcakes, the next boy was setting the table with nice dishes, and the little girls were watching Timmy Time. Both boys kept defecting to see what Timmy was doing, and getting more sour every time I pulled them back into the kitchen. I had planned to have fresh cheese in these bread pockets I make sometimes for our tea/supper, so I kept skimming the little blobs out of the whey, skimming, skimming, until I couldn’t stand it and left the last ricotta sized curds afloat. Then I proceeded to knead. Ever try to knead something that just springs away from you in small rivvels? It was an exercise in futility. Apparently, they were right about the pasteurized milk kneading  (snicker) a bit more work so it hangs together. I stirred in the kosher salt and decided we would eat it as a dip with crackers. There was no excess energy to make the bread dough for cheesy buns.

It was actually quite good, and sat up in lumpy little heaps on the crackers. We had crackers, pepperoni, and cheese, cupcakes and jello cups and tea. It was improvised and funny, but at least it was different.

I also currently have a batch of determined sprouts in a jar and a batch of kefir on the counter. We will survive the long, cold time. And the mozzarella hasn’t whipped me yet. I shall be trying it again as soon as I get raw milk and some cheese cloth.


Of all the lame titles, that one should be about at the top of the list, but there really is no better description for this sort of post. The last one should have been titled “Late Night Ideas from a Tired Woman who Doesn’t do Fancy Birthday Parties.” I reread it this morning and thought it really didn’t make sense, but I wasn’t sure which part didn’t make sense, and so I just left the whole bit as it was.

Then I thought, “What if my creative, artistic friends who love to do amazing parties straight out of Pinterest feel like I don’t approve of their efforts? When, in fact, I love to go to their houses and see their creativity. So then I guess I am just saying that for me, lazy equals simplicity???” Whatever. I wasn’t coming out ahead in any of it, so I decided not to think about it anymore. 🙂

Gabe is on the way to the Emergency Department with the little boy who never complains when he doesn’t feel well. So then when he does mention that something hurts, you really sit up and listen. When he had a concussion a few months ago, he seemed okay until he started crying because he couldn’t see. I nearly panicked but the doctor just jovially told us not to let him bump his head again for a while and he will  be fine.

Gregory has been limping for a few days, but didn’t complain of pain. This evening we spent time with our homeschool group, and I noticed that he wasn’t playing at all, just sitting on the sidelines kind of pale and peaked looking. Uh oh. When we inspected his knee, we found it hugely swollen and inflamed.  We tried to think back to when this started, and he said well, he thinks he twisted it when he was pole vaulting the other night. But it didn’t hurt much, so he didn’t tell us then. Sigh. Maybe the children who complain of every little spasm and want Berry well all the time are easier to keep healthy.

I just hate the feeling, as a parent, that the buck stops here and we have to decide what is best for this child.  Is this a severe sprain? Is it Lyme disease? What about torn ligaments? Just reading down through the list on google is not too comforting. The E. D. is not quite so scary anymore since my man works there, and he gets slightly partial treatment. It is kind of like a family, and they look out for each other. One of the perks of this career, I suppose.

So I find I have a little while to sit here and stay awake and post random stuff.

Alex just reviewed the rules for quotation marks recently. To my chagrin, I discovered that I was a bit mixed up whenever I wrote a sentence with a title at the end. I thought you did this: Last week I read “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”. I always put the end punctuation outside the end quotation mark because it was just a title. According to his Language textbook, it should be like this: Last week I read “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.” I know it is a small technicality, but it bugs the tar out of me that I thought wrong all these years. Where was I during 5th grade Language class? Maybe they changed the rules. I looked it up on Wikipedia and came away feeling even more disillusioned. They have all kinds of directly spoken quotes where the comma is placed after the quotation marks, like this: “I think I should go hit the sack”, he yawned. I am affronted; I will not trust Wikipedia. Then I read this and saw that rule 2 affirms my original way when the sentence is a question but the quote is not. Now I am all confused. Are these rules really “that” fluid? (Some sources say it is not entirely correct, but all right to use quotes for “emphasis.”) Agghhh. Help me out, somebody!

I have a nagging feeling about my very free use of commas, too. And I like to start sentences with “and.” See, there I did it right, but it looks wrong to me. I feel like I did the time in school when we had a doozy of a spelling test with about a hundred words. I think there was a prize promised for all who got 100%. Being the only girl in a class of boys, I had some issues related to proving that I could keep up with the best of them. I took that spelling test extremely seriously, and I struck out on the word congratulations. Such an easy word and I spelled it with a “d” because that is how everybody says it. When I pled my case with my teacher, he said, “If you can find it in the dictionary, you get credit for it.” Of course, it wasn’t there, and I felt betrayed by all the people who ever said it wrong and mixed me up.

Gabe didn’t have to work today, so I took Olivia and Rita to the ladies’ sewing with me. I always enjoy the fun conversations with other women, the camaraderie around the potluck lunch, and the feeling of doing something grand with bits of cloth. I would guess that the ladies send between 50 to 100 comforts to Christian Aid Ministries every year. Nearly all of them are pieced out of scraps of fabric too small to use for anything else.

I was busy with my rotary cutter when I looked up just in time to see my little girl of three years old scaling a rack of stacked folding chairs. I heard her jauntily saying, “I always don’t get hurt when I climb up here.” Then she proceeded to let herself down carefully over the side, her dress stuck on the top, inching up and up. I was poised to run if she fell, but all she did was moon the entire room full of ladies before landing gracefully on her feet. Yup. I am that mom who took her little girl to the sewing without any underwear.

It bewilders me how these things happen. I used to think I would never let my child go through a day with crusty eyes or dirty fingernails or unkempt hair. I do try to keep up with them, but they keep slipping me these curve balls. Tonight it was snowing and blowing. We got to the homeschool meeting, hung up our winter coats, and took our seats. Alex was sitting up front for a trivia game when I noticed it. He was barefooted in sandals. Sometimes you just roll with it and laugh. What else could you do?


Celebrating with Simplicity

“Everybody has their Cadillac,” says my dad when he is talking about the things that are normal for some and raise Such Indulgence eyebrows for others. I think this is especially true for penny pinchers people on a budget. Some people buy all their furniture on Craiglist, but then they buy this incredibly expensive cookware. I have friends who drive really nice vehicles, but I happen to know that they include eating lots of rice and beans in the family diet. I have to remember that while I forgo the cheese and bacon, my neighbor may think that the cereal in my shopping cart is a total splurge. I suppose I could always show them my coupons. 😛

Anyway… That is not the point here. The point? got a little lost in that first paragraph. I just wanted to clarify that if your particular brand of thrift doesn’t look just like mine, I am totally fine with that.

Back to celebrating… it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a festive occasion, especially for children.  I found this photo of a girly tea party, taken a year ago, and it brought all these thoughts up to the air.


On birthdays, we light a few candles, get out our pretty dishes, and drink out of goblets.  And we have bacon for breakfast. Instant celebration. When you eat a lot of cooked cereals, you appreciate the switch. 🙂 I kind of like that I don’t have to impress the birthday child with a tremendous meal from Taste of Home. (But then, I am a lazy cook.) We have ice cream and chips only on Occasions. We eat dessert on the weekend. It makes life very simple, and I love how the children’s eyes light up when the special stuff comes out. I do not quite know how to deal with the deprived little kids who try every kind of soda at the school picnic, though.

When I was a small girl, Mom would come home from grocery shopping trips with one pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, five pieces. There were four of us, and we each got one piece, which we savored… and saved and chewed again the next day. Our school lunches were bologna sandwiches and canned peaches in a little container, with maybe a cookie and some milk in reuseable thermoses. It was a Really Big Deal to get a Twinkie in our lunch.

I feel old when I look around and see all the stuff that is considered necessary to raise a happy child. Just check out kids’ bedrooms or birthday parties on Pinterest and you will know what I mean. I know we can’t be back in the eighties again, and I certainly don’t want to be Amish either, but I am trying to raise my brood with gratefulness for the small things.  I am sure I am not the only one who wants to raise her children with that sort of simplicity. What do you do intentionally to cut back on some of the superfluous stuff?

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Yesterday when I was on hands and knees, cleaning up serial messes and feeling a touch of hysteria rising within me, it was not the thought of Nutella that gave me the push I needed to carry on. I thought maybe I should clarify that. 😉 Let me share with you the verse I read in 1 John that morning… in my beloved Amplified Bible.

“By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God…”

Sometimes I think it is easier to be righteous in a big flood of crisis than it is to live rightly in the drip-drip-drip of daily annoyances.

It was that “conform to His will in purpose, thought, and action” that came to mind when I really felt like yelling and blaming and losing it. I had prayed before I ever got out of bed for that sort of right living by the power of Jesus, not realizing what I was asking for. Isn’t it amazing that He is the One who works that out in us, in the most “impossible” ways, when our humanness reaches its limits?

And yes, today was many times better! We had cheerios, frozen blueberries, and  yogurt for supper. How is that for a cheerful ending?

A Series of Unfortunate Events

There is a children’s book titled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Alexander knew it was going to be a bad day when he woke up and realized that he had gum stuck in his hair. I never read it to my children, because I like to keep their literature a little more upbeat, but I thought of it this morning.

My clue should have been when the alarm shrilled us to wakefulness at 5:30. Gabe got up to go to work (18 hour shift) and came back into our room to tell me that the kitchen door was open and the kittens had slept on the couch. “You might want to check for cat poop when you get up. Also, you shouldn’t use the upstairs toilet today. It seems to be plugged and I can’t open it with the plunger.” I groaned, rolled over, and snoozed until my alarm at 6 o’clock. After fortifying my soul with 1 John, I fell asleep again. A few minutes later I heard conversation in the kitchen, a loud discussion about what stinks?!  When I got up, there was a distinctly catty smell and suspicious tracks all through the kitchen where Rita had frantically tried to wipe poo off her feet after innocently stepping into a pile.

There appeared to be nothing else to do except to break out the big guns Lysol wipes and set to cleaning. I mean, nobody else was volunteering. Just as I finished and set the trash bag outside the door, I heard Alex yelling that Rita spilled chocolate milk in the living room. Two infractions of the rules right there… the pouring of the milk on her own as well as taking it into the living room. So we got a bucket of water and my handy peroxide/lavender cleaner and scrubbed away. Addy had been industriously digging thumb tacks out of my utility drawer, so I put her into the highchair to keep her out of trouble. There are no straps that restrain her unless they have a 5 point hitch. Sure enough, she did a header and needed comfort. Her diaper had soaked through her clothes, so I soothed her and dressed her all nicely for the day before I went to get dressed myself.

While I was behind closed doors, I heard the sloshing of water in the hallway. Apparently Addy thought dumping a bunch of clean clothes into the cleaning bucket, then dragging them across the floor would nicely take care of the extra water in the bucket. Her cute little outfit was soaked. About that time someone flushed the toilet.

It felt like a conspiracy. It really did. I might have said something like, “May the Lord preserve the next person that makes a mess!” And then I think I whimpered and fixed a cup of tea and prayed for the Lord to preserve the mother from too hasty reactions. Because sometimes you just know it’s going to keep coming at you. The day, that is. If you could just snap your fingers: “Janitor, please remove this!” and wave your arms imperiously while you step outside for a minute, it would be so much easier to stay calm.

Last week one day Gabe was helping me clean up the house. He was truly astounded at the flotsam and jetsam around and under and on top of the couches. The girls started dragging some stuff, papers and books, back into the living room before we had even vacuumed the floor. I heard Gabe mutter, “Where is that custard you made? I need custard!” And I said, “See, that is why homemakers gain weight! They have to chew something before they hurt somebody.”

I am making no apologies for that tablespoon full of Nutella that I indulged in when the kids weren’t looking.